And we were still stuck in the hotel…
This time it was Laura’s turn to take a turn for the worse and although we had both started antibiotics, they weren’t agreeing with her. Yet again the alarm went off early, amd yet again it got switched off with Laura barely getting out if bed until midday.
But with more rest we finally started to get on the mend and by the evening we were tucking into yet more pizza and the toasted sandwiches we had meant to save for breakfast. And early night, bags packed and we were feeling optimistic about the next day…
We awoke the following morning feel much better and we started the day with a bounty chocolate bars in lieu of the toasties we’d already eaten.
It felt amazing to get back on the road and finally be heading to Goa.
We both had our appetites back so stopped for omlettes and grilled sandwiches to build our strength back up. We then pushed on to the becoming golden arches in the main town 40 miles on.
The weather was better than it had been and with the break in the rain we could almost see a faint blue tinge to the sky and lots more wildlife was out. Little kingfishers perched on telegraph wires ready to dive and some birds of prey swooped to catch fish from the lakes of monsoon rains. We stopped to check the bike briefly and the other side of the road there were trees full of large black birds making a right ruckus. I looked more closely and they looked odd…they seemed to be hanging instead of perching…they were massive bats!! Trees and trees full of bats!! (Look closely at the photo)
A bit of miscommunication resulted in us missing the first Maccy D’s but everything was saved by a Domino’s not much further down the road. Making up for lost calories two pizzas went down a treat!
With 20 miles to go we were keen to push on and put the foot down once we got clear of the last few towns.
The side wall of the rear tyre had blown.
Maybe too many changes in #puncturegate2022 or maybe the attritional road surface of NH66. Stevie had the new one out and on in a flash but it still cost us time a we ended up doing the last descent through a remote stretch of forest in the darks surrounded by a cacophony of frogs croaking and our light reflecting off the submerged paddy fields.
Arriving at our hotel we were still delighted with our progress for the first day back on the road and we’re looking forward to a well earned rest in a boutique looking hotel and soa not far from the beach. I fear covid has hit the tourist industry and therefore Goa hard though and it quickly became apparent the hotel was not what it once was. A traipse up 3 flights of stairs due to the broken lift and a basic room with a window themat rattled in the frame and did nothing to keep the noise if the road (or the mam herding his buffalo at 5am) out, ait con the switched off all through the night only to come back on just before we got up, a luke warm shower and WiFi that didn’t reach the room. To top it all off they didn’t accept card leaving us with 90 rupees (approx 90p).
We decided to venture out anyway and quickly found the atm dark and no use. There was harsh angry words and gestures outside the liquor store- the first we’ve seen in Indja abd the restaurant that temptingly promise pasta, burgers and pizza from the photos on Google maps was having a private function. Disheartened we went back to the hotel where they offered to drive us to an atm but we were to tired by this point so just got more water and are leftover garlic bread and cereal bars before bed.
The excitement of yesterday has worn off a bit with not the best nights sleep.
But we were determined to make an early start and a snack of leftover garlic bread and cereal bars and we got on the road.
For the first time we finally got glimpses of the Arabian Sea between the palms trees. It looked dark and tumultuous, with pounding waves as if it was overflowing with the monsoon rains too. We decided to skip the beach…
We felt quite pleased with ourselves at finding somewhere to get a freshly cooked omlette (these are quickly becoming a staple) and wolfed it down (despite the added chilli!) We were joined by some chickens sheltering from the rain before the restaurant owner chased them out.
The weather stayed remarkably dry through the day and plodding along we almost missed the turn we had been waiting for… finally leaving National Highway 66!! It has not been our favourite road of the trip…
A crisp sandwich was in order and we weaved into the jungle, spotting a monkey on the road and seeing signs for “protect the tigers”!
Midafternoon we were peckish again and stopped in hope of another omlette…but no luck. It was curry or curry so we took our chances on some white rice, chapattis and daal. We even found the Indian equivalent of smarties for pudding! Once we moved the cow blocking the bike in and has some selfies we were climbing up the mountain.
A long slog for about 10 miles of steady climbing where we beat a couple of lorries to the top and we had already planned to stop at Yellapur, being a reasonable sized town with a few options for lodgings. We plumped for one reasonable looking hotel and initially were in doubt about leaving the tandem directly outside, but the hotel said there was 24 hour security there and cameras.
The room was basic as ever: the shower initially warm, the WiFi almost reached the room and there was only dust where Stevie could see… We decided to eat at the hotel restaurant as it was “multicultural” so we hoped for an option other than curry while we broke our guts back in. No sooner had we sat down than the selfie requests started and just as well we had a good view of the bike as that was getting just as much attention. Our soup arrived but Stevie was getting increasingly twitchy as people got closer and closer to our precious machine checking the tyres and inspecting the mechanics… he soon cracked and went over only to be barraged by questions. One man in particular was especially insistent to know how much it cost which did nothing to allay our fears about its safety.
Stevie finally managed to extricate himself and we tried to eat dinner between more selfies but the veggie noodles/rice was greasy and pretty horrible and we both felt stressed about the bike and situation. We decided to stage Stevie storming upstairs while Laura informed the manager her husband was very upset and worried the bike would be tampered with and could we please have his assurance that it would be safe and no one would touch it. With promises of 24 hour security and that it would be 100% safe we both went to bed.
We awoke to find the tandem safe and sound…and the 24hour security sound asleep on the couch on reception. Leaving the key on the desk we slipped put (we had paid the night before) and went in search of breakfast as we were both hungry after such a poor meal the night before. Our theory that places with eggs outside would make us an fresh omlette quickly fully flat so we settled for bananas, snickers and mango juice for breakfast.
7Some more rolling hills in the jungle made for slow progress to begin with and we passed little villages and towns interspersed between the undergrowth where termite mounds lined the sides of the road and monkeys ventured into it.
Stopping at a restaurant optimistically for omlettes as our bellies started to rumble there was only one option on the menu: idli, a sort of ground rice patty served with sambar (lentil sauce) and coconut chutney. We made donand these actually went down a treat.
Skirting the edge of Hubbali we missed any chance at Western food to avoid the traffic and thought we were saved by seen the second petrol station in India serving food. Promises of noodles and toasted sandwiches sounded too good to be true…and it was! Only tea and coffee was available so more crisp sandwiches and chocolate bars it was.
The terrain certainly changed as we moved inland from paddy fields and jungle to flatlands and cotton amd corn fields with much bigger views. Patches of blue skies and glimmers of sunshine gave us hope of better weather and even the occasional drizzle was less intense than the monsoon rains had been on previous days.
A solid afternoon along a National Highway more like the one we started on buoyed our spirits too and Stela was relieved to stretch her legs again. We made good time to Ranebennur and started the nightly hotel finding process. We managed to get the bike safely locked away in a garage after staging a walk out and checked in feeling like we’d done well… until a new curved ball: the hotel had no WiFi! Not just useful for Instagram but also checking out the accommodation for the next night and doing research like where to find a new spare tyre.
We checked in anyway and yet another shabby room with no hot water and no clean sheets. We bailed out pretty quick for dinner, aiming for a pizza. We trudged through muddy streets dodging puddles and mopeds and the first one was closed but the second was a glimmering beacon of hope.
Slightly more compact than we anticipated (3 small tables) it wasn’t exactly stone-baked/wood-fired but we order a pizza and a portion of Maggi noodles each regardless. The young lads in there were quick to ask the usual questions but spoke good English and were genuinely interested in our travels so we fielded questions between bites of pizza. They also helped us get on the WiFi so we juggled doing the admin with eating, selfies and making videos for the owners of the restaurant. It made for a rather surreal but fun experience and we felt like part of the gang by the time we left.
Slightly high on sugar from too much mango juice and the ice creams the restaurant had given us we decided to relax with a beer and Laura also tried to get some uncooked rice as as she had water ingress problems with her phone. Both requests proved trickier than expected with a tour if the kitchens which revealed plenty of cooked rice but no uncooked rive (it was pretty hard to explain what we wanted it for) and buying a beer was only apparently possible through room service, which we then had to call up twice before 3 people came to take our order (not that we had a clue what we wanted apart from beer) and then two people delivered it with a tray of salad that we’d paid for but couldn’t eat and then another had to return with a bottle opener. We just sat back and relaxed when the door went again with another man with the bill and to make sure we were sure we didn’t want any other snacks. Finally left in peace we got the sleeping bag liners out and rested up.
After escaping from the hotel (it was all locked up still and the man was asleep on the seating…) We started to make good progress on smooth roads with a tailwind.
The banana sandwiches we’d had for breakfast saw us through the first 35 miles but more sustenance was needed. Failing in the omlette front again the restaurant we stopped at had one option: paratha. But it was freshly cooked, with piping hot filling and came with milk curd and a lentil sauce and was amazing! We were entertained by a pair of young kittens who had obviously just learnt the ropes of climbing and scaled everything in sight, including the tandem.
Feeling pleased with our second breakfast we pushed on and the weather continued to improved going from light showers to proper sunshine. We could hardly believe we were seeing blue skies finally!
The highway made for great progress but tricker to find stops but we managed to pick up some crisps, chocolate and coke (basically were living off the diet of teenagers…) mid afternoon and had the usual crowd for selfies.
We were trying to find more cash as well finding that fewer and fewer places were accepting card but to no avail so decided to make a break for Sira where we were planning to stay and sort it out there. We were delighted to make Sira not too long after 5pm having done just over 115 miles and spotting a couple of likely hotels on the way in went to get cash.
This was where things didn’t go to plan, as it seems there’s never any easy day in India.
The first cash point was dark and switched off so getting directed to the second Laura queued while Stevie and the bike got swamped by school children. After a while it became apparent no cash was available here either despite people still queueing up so we decided to move on. One you lad on a moped asked the normal questions but then offered to show us to a cash point. After a few hundred metres we ask how far and he said 1km and continued on. We headed our of town and smelt a rat so stopped the bike.
“Where is the ATM?”
He replied grinning like a fool. We were livid!
It was 6pm by this point and he was leading us on a merry goosechase for blooming selfies which we’d have just done to begin with if he’d ask but now we’d lost an hour of hard earnt recovery trying to find cash. We went to plan B to see rhe hotels would accept card but the first was a no so we went further out of town to the poshest hotel we’d seen in a long time thinking if anywhere takes card they would. But the hotel was brand new, if even open yet, and they had no WiFi, no card machine and no restaurant. They did have a garage for the bike however so Stevie was keen to stop where it was safe. This meant we didn’t even have enough cash to cover the room so had to go put again to get cash and dinner. A couple of miles walk up the road to the town and 8 atms later we finally got some rupees!
Feeling relieved we stopped for dinner on the way back to the hotel and then finally once we had got clean and settled it was gone 10pm, so all advantage from our hard work earlier in the day was lost!
Feeling a bit worn out after the drama the night before we still pushed for an early start and ate plain rolls to get on the road. The sun was soon put though and the miles passed as we searched for second breakfast. We finally came across an open “hotel” (which now translates as restaurant, not lodgings) serving traditional South Indian fare and had idli, masala and onion dosas to fill our bellies.
Stevie’s assessment of the toilet being “quite clean” showed pur standards have changed somewhat…
We were keen to get back on the road though as we were hoping to meet up with some Audax India riders including the lovely Meera who not only is a fellow tandemist but also has given us so much help and advice already. We got closer to Bengaluru (or Bangalore, it’s old name) and the traffic built up. But we came across the 2nd serious cyclist we had seen in India who helped us stay on the right road and took some great photos of us.
The rain had started to come down and with no Internet to help find them we were worried we’d miss them in the traffic. But Meera and Deepak who organises the Tour of Nil Giris, India’s premier ultra-distance cycling event, were waiting patiently for us and advised us to stop early and start early tomorrow to avoid the traffic. They had arranged a fantastic hotel which is a complete luxury compared to some of the places we have found of our own accord and sorted everything out for us! We’ve now got much needed break before they will help us get out of the city early tomorrow morning.
It’s been absolutely fantastic to meet fellow audax/long distance cyclists and we’re so grateful for all their help.
Feeling massively refreshed after such a great night stay we were up early and ready to go for 6am.
Deepak and his daughter from were ready to escort us through Bengaluru on moped and with light traffic we made tremendous time through the city thanks to their help.
We we soon on the main highway andcwith tailwinds and a steady descent the miles were flying by. Eventually turning off the main road the road works started again on the road to Puducherry but to our relief were much ĺess of a problem than they had been on NH 66.
Having only stopped for a snack for breakfast in a highway lay by we somehow managed to find some pizza at 90miles! It was only just gone 2:30pm by the time we hit 100miles!!
Keen to make up distance we finished late afternoon at 130miles and even managed to score a very nice hotel for the night.
And… it didn’t even rain today!!